Rules of the game. “Contestants must spit their pit within 60 seconds of the time they are called to the line by the tournament judge. Three spits are allowed. The longest of three is recorded as the official score. If a pit is swallowed or lost, that spit is forfeited.” That’s rule six of the Annual International Cherry Pit Spit World Championship, held July 7 at the Tree-Mendus Fruit farm in southwest Michigan.

A long, strange trip. “On the elevated and subway trains of the Chicago Transit Authority I have traveled to date (and I’m not done yet) a total of 191,724 miles,” writes Joel Wells in the Critic (Summer 1990). “I’ve been on trains that caught fire; I’ve had rocks and even bullets pass through windows, inches from my head; I’ve seen fights and wanton copulation; I’ve been vomited on and gone to sleep on; I’ve been stung by wasps and drenched with bags full of water tossed on the train by feckless children… I’ve even been involved in an attempted act of terrorism when a deranged man leapt to his feet on the Evanston Express, brandished a very hard bagel and demanded that the train take him to Cuba.”

What is the proper way to fax the flag? Nearly 11,000 alumni of the School of the Art Institute and the UIC School of Art and Design are being invited to submit two-dimensional images via fax to the first Chicago exhibition of “artworks all transmitted by fax machine,” opening July 13.

“Chicago police are dispirited along Lawrence Avenue because of their persistent inability to solve crimes committed among Orientals,” according to William J. Leahy in Leahy’s Corner (May/June 1990). “At least some Korean bars employ prostitutes. Some bars even have beds in them…. Police complain that they seldom find anyone who will admit to having witnessed a crime on Lawrence Avenue. Another complaint is that the CPD does not have one Korean on the force.”

What difference did Industrial Revenue Bonds make? Not much, according to a study by Bob Giloth reported in the Neighborhood Works (June/July 1990). No matter what the recipients of the low-interest funds promised, they rarely delivered: “The 81 manufacturers in this study [who obtained IRBs in Chicago between 1977 and 1989] promised a total of 5,576 new jobs within three years after their IRB investment. Nine firms went the other way, and closed their plants. Even excluding these nine, IRB manufacturers overall only gained 115 net new jobs between time of investment and 1987.”

I got my vocational degree at the University of Chicago. According to a recent press release, Theresa Bartholomew, who is now director of training for most Jiffy Lube operations in greater Chicago, graduated from the U. of C. in 1980 with a degree in Romance languages.

“New Age is nothing if not the revenge of the dull upon the brilliant,” writes Julie Burchill in the British 20/20, reprinted in the Utne Reader (July/August 1990). For instance, it portrays “Mother Nature as a caring, sharing type rather than the earthquake-throwing, starvation-causing nasty drunk on a permanent bender she so obviously is….Imagine if Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ had been painted by a New Ager–they’d all be sitting outside in the sunshine, sipping camomile tea, smiling like there was a tomorrow!…I do not wish to be part of an organic whole, thank you very much, and anyone who tries to coerce me will get a fat lip.”

Roger & Mr. Death. “Only one day after proposing to boost pensions for its top officials (including doubling the annual retirement pension for its chairman, Roger Smith, from $600,000 to $1.2 million), General Motors found an interesting way to pay for its largesse. The company is now assuming that the average retiree will die two years sooner than in the past, thereby reducing its annual contribution to cover pension expenses for its blue-collar employees.” Of course real-world U.S. life expectancies are still increasing (Investing for a Better World, June 15).

How about a Tums? Almost everyone agrees that art should be more than mere decorative ornamentation, writes Chicago artist Deven Golden in New Art Examiner (June 1990), but what? “Writers Suzi Gablik or Maureen Sherlock, for example, would have us believe that art and artists should act as a kind of societal enema, cleaning out and healing the community at large. Others, like artists Jeff Koons or Haim Steinbeck, perhaps see art more as an emetic, something to be forced down our collective throat until, finally engorged, everything comes hurtling back willy-nilly to be re-sorted into an ostensibly purer order.” Just as long as they do the sorting.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.